The No Child Left Behind federal K-12 law is no longer in effect, thanks to a recent U.S. Senate ruling. Instead, a new bipartisan project is expected to reduce the role of the federal government in education. The decision-making power returned to states and school districts because of the decision.
By an 85-12 vote, the Senate made the long-awaited final reauthorization. It now lies on the President’s desk. After similar bipartisan support (359-64), the House put the measure forward to President Obama, for signing possibly later this week.
Optimistically called the Every Student Succeeds Act, this measure eliminates the punishment of states without enough students proficient in reading and math. The canceled No Child Left Behind Act is infamous for creating a negative emphasis on testing over performance.
Now states have the freedom to create and manage their education systems on their own. They will also evaluate teachers according to their own grading score. Most importantly, states and local governments will now decide how to help failing schools improve performance and close gaps in comprehension.
“Whereas No Child Left Behind prescribed a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to struggling schools, this law offers the flexibility to find the best local solutions – while also ensuring that students are making progress,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday, in Washington.
But the old No Child Left Behind won’t be left behind entirely. Some provisions, like the federal testing schedule, are in place. The federal testing schedule makes states test students from grades three to eight every year in reading and math. Students are required to retake both tests in high school. The new measure also requires schools to report student scores and analyze the data by economic status, race, disability, and level of English proficiency.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and the President refused to support the bill without a last-minute addition. This addition requires the continuous monitoring of underserved students, who might otherwise actually be left behind.
States are now identifying their worst five percent of schools, where over two-thirds of students aren’t graduating, and schools consistently fail to close achievement gaps between designated subgroups of students.
Many have known how impractical the No Child Left Behind Act is since its expiration in 2007. Numerous authorities say the transfer of power from federal to local government is a direct effect of Obama’s use of executive authority forcing long-overdue education change. Obama made other positive changes. Critics praised the administration’s Race to the Top competition. This offered money incentives to states in exchange for accepting a smorgasbord of new education policies and conditional waivers. These were early attempts to make up for the failures of the No Child Left Behind policy.
“The consensus will end the waivers through which the U.S. Department of Education has become in effect a national school board,” announced Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate education commission. “Governors have been forced to come to Washington, D.C., and play Mother May I.”
Duncan rejected that statement, replying: “I want to be clear about why that fundamentally misses the point,” he said. “For me, and for my colleagues at the department, our role has never for one minute been about our authority, or taking power from local leaders It’s always been about what was expected of our kids, what quality of education we’d offer them and whether there would be change if they weren’t making progress.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act evolved via an uncommon bipartisan work of legislation. Additionally, diverse groups of education stakeholders, education reform groups, two national teachers unions, district superintendents, state school system chiefs, parent organizations, and the civil rights community all gave support of the new measure. This is the first legislative measure the National Governors Association backed in almost twenty years.
“It’s not the bill I would have written on my own,” commented Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat, and co-broker of the bill. “I know it’s not the bill Republicans would have written on their own. That kind of bipartisanship is what we need more of in Congress.”